At the start of Puffball you can watch a character that remarks to the protagonist, Liffey (Kelly Reilly of Mrs. Henderson Presents and Pride And Prejudice): “You don’t look like an architect”. Liffey’s reply is: “What does an architect look like?” Both question and statement hold true and signifies the main flaw of veteran 79-year old Nicholas Roeg’s (my favourite being The Man Who Fell To Earth, Don’t Look Now and Bad Timing) latest theatrical film in a while. Liffey, all pretty and sexually charged, with her non technical dialogue, really does not come through or look remotely like an architect.
And Roeg has not idea how this supernatural gothic thriller should hold together. He is so concerned about how the film looks (no doubt, it is beautifully shot), but it is filled with countless graphic sex scenes (as though to outdo his previous movies like Don’t Look Now and Bad Timing), flashbacks and dream sequences that the movie often makes no sense. Roeg’s best features were never easy to follow, but Puffball is uninteresting and nonsensical, though containing oddly enough fine performances by some good Brit actors like Rira Tushingham and Miranda Richardson.
The story centers on Liffey, a pretty young architect who moves to an isolated valley in the Ireland to build a house. She becomes pregnant though she has taken precautions with her boyfriend, Richard (Oscar Pearce). But she becomes the object of suspicion and hatred from her neighbour Mabs (Miranda Richardson) and her voodoo practising mother (Tushingham).
All this gothic stuff sound intriguing but the director spends too much time setting his characters and stage up and insufficient time for the real action that occurs after the stillborn arrives. Roeg is more interested in rehashing his old stories, like trying to top the sex scene (arguably the best ever filmed) in Don’t Look Now. The odd thing is that no one really cares what happens to Liffey. Oddly, one tends to sympathize towards the troubled Mabs, probably because Richardson delivers an impressive performance. Like the scenes you can watch online in Puffball for free, there are lots of groping and groaning but in the end, it is all looks with no satisfaction.
Incidentally, Puffball is a giant mushroom. Other objects present in the film include a stone with a hole in the center (symbol for?????) and a malfunctioning generator all of which probably makes sense only to Mr. Roeg.